The Orioles are flashing their outfield depth in spring training. Reports of its impressive nature weren’t exaggerated.
Same with the level of intensity in the competition.
Austin Hays, trying to win the center field job, had a single, two-run homer and stolen base today in an 8-1, seven-inning victory over the Braves in North Port, Fla.
DJ Stewart is at his best, he insists, when he’s spraying line drives and concentrating on base hits instead of home runs.
The power just seems to come naturally to him. And it won’t stop.
Stewart launched his second homer of spring training, a tape-measure shot off Braves reliever Carl Edwards Jr. leading off the top of the fourth inning.
Hays connected off Tucker Davidson in the fifth after Jahmai Jones drew a leadoff walk, and the Orioles led 5-1. Hays is 4-for-5 in exhibition games.
“I just feel like the stuff I worked on in the offseason, with my swing mechanically, is starting to show up here,” he said.
Said manager Brandon Hyde: “He’s hitting the ball hard, he’s staying through the middle of the field, which I love. He’s an exciting player. He’s got a plus run tool, hits the ball hard, hits the ball with power, throws above average, a lot of things he does very, very well.”
The home run occurred with infant son Levi, born on Dec. 22, attending his first game. Hays said his father, Chuck, retrieved the ball and had it delivered to the outfielder’s wife, Samantha, who sat behind home plate feeding the baby,
Fire and rescue personnel handled the task while assisting with health and safety protocols.
“Maybe dad strength is a thing, because the first game he comes to, I hit a homer,” Hays said. “Hopefully, that happens a lot this year.”
“We have quite a few guys swinging the bat very well,” said Hyde, whose club is 1-2-1. “It’s nice to have so much talent in our outfield. Guys that can play multiple positions. We’ve got some guys swinging the bat right now and it’s good to see.”
Jones produced his first hit as an Oriole this afternoon, reaching on an infield single in the top of the third inning. A run scored on the play, but no RBI for Jones.
A wild throw by Braves third baseman Johan Camargo allowed Chris Shaw to score after his leadoff walk and the Orioles led 1-0.
Jones singled in the seventh inning and scored on an error. Two more runs scored when Guillermo Heredia lost Tyler Nevin’s fly ball in the sun and Adley Rutschman’s RBI double increased the lead to 8-1.
Mason McCoy singled and the inning was halted.
Jones has plus speed and it was evident today.
“Very athletic, runs well,” Hyde said. “You saw the bat speed there on that base hit to left field, where he turned around a fastball and got his hands inside and really drove the ball to left field. He’s got a lot of talent. Still learning the position at second base and we’re going to keep throwing him out there, keep teaching every day with him. He showed some of his tools today.”
Wade LeBlanc allowed a hit and struck out two batters in two scoreless innings - a nice return from last summer’s elbow injury.
“It’s always good to get the first one out of the way,” he said. “There’s always some nerves, which is good to kind of exorcise those. And there’s always, you just want to make sure you’re healthy and that’s the most important part of this point in camp, so to be able to go out there, get your two innings and feel good is definitely a good step in the right direction.”
Drew Smyly worked two scoreless innings for the Braves and struck out the side in the second.
Hunter Harvey survived a leadoff walk in the third, with Ronald Acuña Jr. grounding into a 5-4-3 double play. His first pitch registered 98 mph, according to the Braves radio broadcast.
Dillon Tate followed Harvey, his first pitch clocked at 95 mph, and Ozzie Albies hit a leadoff home run to reduce the lead to 2-1. Harvey and Tate were making their spring debuts.
“I don’t put a whole lot of stock in first outings,” Hyde said. “I thought Hunter, after the first hitter, settled down a little bit and got in the strike zone a little bit more often. But his velo was up and he was throwing the ball hard. His stuff looked good, so good outing from him.”
Tate was burned by a two-seamer that bled over the plate, “but after that, he did a really nice job of pitching,” Hyde said.
“Ball movement all over the place, picking up where he left off last year, so happy with both guys how they threw the ball.”
Ashton Goudeau finished up with two scoreless and hitless frames..
Rutschman struck out from both sides of the plate as the designated hitter and was 0-for-3 before the double.
It won’t hurt his prospect status.
“Just thought he was trying too hard the first three at-bats,” Hyde said. “Over-swinging a little bit, head was flying, trying to get four hits in one at-bat. The last at-bat, I felt like he just looked a little more comfortable, I thought his swing was more under control, eyes stayed down longer through the hitting zone. Just kind of slowed himself down a little bit. He’ll learn that as he goes along.”